How to Design A PCB Board

The PCB design process using design software

The PCB design process, from concept to layout and design test, is a systematic approach that can be broken down into distinct steps. In the following sections, we will cover each of these steps in detail, and show what designing a printed circuit board entails. We’ll also be offering tips that ensure a successful PCB design and manufacturing process.

How to Design a PCB Circuit Board

A PCB design engineer is typically responsible for the entire design process, from conception to fabrication. Usually, the design process begins with a schematic or electrical diagram that serves as a blueprint for the printed circuit board.

It’s also common practice for customers and PCB designers to collaborate on the design, as needed. The PCB designer should also document their process, so that good records are kept for future reference.

  • Before beginning the design process, consider the desired outcome. Do you want a small-footprint board with high feature density? Or do you need a board that can withstand shock and vibration?
  • Once these considerations are made, the PCB designing engineer can select specific components for the project. These components will be used to define the layout of the board.
  • At the end of the PCB design process, the designer will perform a review to check for any issues that may have been overlooked. This is an important step in ensuring that the board performs correctly and meets all standards and specifications.
PCB design first step (schematics capture)
PCB design first step (schematics capture)
Resource: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hMy6MhWppNo

PCB Design Process Steps

The PCB design process involves these 5 key steps: schematics capture or drawing, circuit board layout or a physical presentation of the board, component placement, routing the traces, and — finally — testing the design to ensure it meets all the requirements. Below is an overview of each of these PCB design steps.

Step 1: Schematics Capture

The steps to design PCB boards start with a schematic. This is the blueprint for the specific printed circuit board. It defines connections between the components, power requirements, signal integrity considerations, and more.

The PCB schematics as can be seen in the image above, is a drawing of an electrical circuit, indicating the components that make up the circuit and how they are connected. This schematic allows engineers to map out logical connections between different types of components prior to the layout phase.

During this stage, the PCB bill of materials (BOM) is also created. This is a comprehensive list of all the components and parts needed to build the board. The BOM serves to ensure that all parts are accounted for and allows designers to keep track of the board’s cost, component availability, and other considerations.

Step 2: Layout

The second step in the PCB design process is creating a layout. This involves taking the schematic drawings and creating a physical representation of them on the board.

Layout creation includes placing components in an optimized layout, setting up layers to route traces between pins, adding testing points, designing the silk screen labels, and more.

During the layout process, designers must consider a variety of factors such as signal integrity, EMI (electromagnetic interference), and thermal management. The board’s shape and size, too, as some components require more space than others.

Step 3: Component Placement

PCB component placement during the design phase is the process of inserting components into their respective footprints on the board, and optimizing their locations to ensure they all fit correctly while still meeting design requirements.

During this part of the PCB design process, engineers make sure that there’s adequate clearance between components and traces as well as enough space for routing. Component placement also includes orienting components, such as ICs and connectors, in the correct direction.

Step 4: Trace Routing

Trace routing means laying out the copper paths that will connect all of the components together and make sure they are electrically connected. Trace routing requires utmost skill for the below reasons:

Proper PCB routing ensures signal integrity, minimized noise, and helps keep high-speed signals away from digital I/O pins, and more. It’s also necessary to ensure enough clearance between traces and components to reduce the risk of shorts.

It’s at this PCB design process step when designers must take into account factors like EMI, crosstalk, and impedance. These factors will determine the size of the traces, the number of vias used, and more.

Step 5: Testing

The final step of the PCB design process is testing. The engineer, using simulation software, will run tests and inspections to ensure the board meets all of its requirements. This can include testing for power dissipation, signal integrity, EMC compliance, working with a variety of input signals, and so on.

The purpose is to check that the design works in real-life scenarios and is capable of doing the job it was designed for. Once the board passes these tests, it is ready to send out for manufacturing and assembly.

If any issues arise during this process, they can be corrected in the design phase before manufacture begins. For circuit boards that’ll be mass-produced, prototyping is highly also highly recommended.

PCB design layout
PCB design layout
Resource: https://youtu.be/6i4LeVzQqLk

PCB Design Tips

The PCB design and fabrication process is an intensive procedure. However, with the right knowledge and practice, engineers can complete it successfully. These PCB design tips explain how to make the most out of the design process and ensure a successful product:

1. Begin with a clear understanding of the board’s purpose, requirements, and limitations. This will influence the design decisions that designers will make and help ensure a successful end-product.

2. Pay close attention to the PCB bill of materials. Make sure all components are accounted for. It helps to double-check the quantity and availability of these parts before finalizing the board design.

3. Consider using a PCB prototype for testing before sending out for mass production. This is especially important for more complex boards as it allows for corrections to be made before the final product can be produced.

4. Use good PCB design software and follow best practices to ensure a high-quality design. This will help minimize the risk of errors during production, which can be time-consuming and costly.

5. A successful PCB designing procedure requires great skill and expertise. As such, seeking the services of a professional and experienced PCB manufacturer is highly recommended.

Conclusion

The PCB design process is an important step in any electronics product development. It requires careful consideration of design requirements, as well as a good understanding of the manufacturing process. By following a proper PCB designing procedure, engineers can ensure their projects reach completion without any major issues. Not only that but also that projects are completed on budget and within the specified time frame.

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